So to that end I’m proposing a new hacker ethic. Of course proposing a closed set of rules for virtuous behavior would go against the very philosophy I’m trying to advance, so my ethic instead takes the form of questions that every hacker should ask themselves while they’re making programs and machines. So here they are.
Instead of saying access to computers should be unlimited and total, we should ask “Who gets to use what I make? Who am I leaving out? How does what I make facilitate or hinder access?”
Instead of saying all information should be free, we could ask “What data am I using? Whose labor produced it and what biases and assumptions are built into it? Why choose this particular phenomenon for digitization or transcription? And what do the data leave out?”
Instead of saying mistrust authority, promote decentralization, we should ask “What systems of authority am I enacting through what I make? What systems of support do I rely on? How does what I make support other people?”
And instead of saying hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position, we should ask “What kind of community am I assuming? What community do I invite through what I make? How are my own personal values reflected in what I make?”
So you might have noticed that there were two final points—the two last points of Levy’s hacker ethics that I left alone, and those are these: You can create art and beauty on a computer. Computers can change your life for the better. I think if there’s anything to be rescued from hacker culture it’s these two sentences. These two sentences are the reason that I’m a computer programmer and that I’m a teacher in the first place.